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NASA Moves On Moon-Rocket Procurement


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Aviation News Release



NASA Moves On Moon-Rocket Procurement


Jan 6, 2009

Frank Morring, Jr. morring@aviationweek.com




Potential contractors on NASA's heavy-lift Ares V moon rocket will have until Feb. 9 to submit bids on the first procurement package of the huge launch vehicle, under a request for proposals issued Jan. 5.


The RFP came as the 111th Congress prepared to hold its first session today, with President-elect Obama's inauguration still two weeks in the future. Neither of the newly elected branches of the federal government has made its position clear on whether to continue with the Bush administration's "Moon, Mars and Beyond" space program, which will require the Ares V to move humans beyond low-Earth orbit.


"This was always the plan, to put out this Ares V [RFP]," an agency spokesman said. "We are still working according to the direction we have been given. The new Congress and the new administration will give us their guidance, and we will follow it as we always do. In the meanwhile we'll continue to work on the direction we've been working on for the past several years."


The RFP sets out five work packages, with 18-month base periods and two one-year options. All are designed to advance NASA's internal concept for a Saturn V-class rocket able to lift a minimum of 413,888 pounds to an orbit of at least 240.8-kilometers (149.6 miles).


That concept includes a core stage powered by six RS-68 engines, boosted by two five-and-a-half-segment versions of the five-segment solid-fuel first stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The extra half-segment on the strap-on boosters will allow structural headroom in the core stage for a larger liquid hydrogen tank to meet the performance criteria.


Work packages will cover the core stage; the strap-on solids; the Earth Departure Stage (EDS) that would take the Orion crew exploration vehicle and the four-seat Altair lunar lander on to lunar orbit; the fairing that would shelter the Altair during launch and ascent, and the avionics and software that will be needed for the complex lunar-launch flight profiles, which will include the need for launch-vehicle power in orbit while an Ares I delivers the crew in an Orion capsule.


Among the questions NASA wants its contractors to answer during the Phase I procurement, designed to take the project through system requirements and system definitions reviews, are what it would take to human-rate the Ares V, the layout of the RS-68 engines and related plumbing, and evaluation of large composite dry structures for the core stage and other elements of the Constellation Program.


Final contractor selections on the five work packages are planned for "the spring of 2009," NASA said. Like the Ares I development, the Ares V procurement will be managed by Marshall Space Flight Center. While the five study packages would set the stage, current plans call for the full-up Ares V development to use funding freed up after 2010 when the space shuttle fleet is retired.


Ares 5 artist's concept: NASA



AVIATION WEEK Copyright 2008, The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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